James Walsh @ The Espy
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James Walsh @ The Espy

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“It’s awfully civilised in here tonight,” said Sarah McLeod as she sat down in a chair mid-stage, silver, high-heeled boots pushing her knees up towards her chin. She wasn’t wrong. The 100 or so people shuffling around the Gershwin room on Friday night was a disappointing turn out for the ARIA award winning rocker of late ’90s rock outfit, The Superjesus, and James Walsh, the headlining front-man of cult British band Starsailor.

But the tameness made for an intimate affair with McLeod asking everybody to move a few feet closer to the stage as a  “community effort”. With James Walsh standing at the bar with the rest of us commoners, McLeod’s guitar arrested the timidity of the crowd. She started off with Gutter Queen, her powerful vocals easily tackling the ripping chorus and followed with the second single of her solo career, Private School Kid. McLeod filled the intermediate silences between songs creatively, making the kind of jokes that would have been funny to the age group who were fans of The Superjesus in their prime. When she strummed through Gravity, though, memories of high school flooded back and it was nice to know she had stayed true to that original image, dated as it may be.

James Walsh arrived on stage and was suddenly transformed from an ordinary person at the bar to a world-renowned vocalist for a band whose first album reached Number Two on the British charts. He said nothing – just launched into Tell Me It’s Not Over, and we were immediately mesmerised. He wasn’t sombre, like his music, nor did he possess the arrogance of his country’s counterparts. He sang beautifully and smiled naively, almost chuffed at how good he sounded.

A quiet thank you and then onwards to the next – MGMT’s Kids followed. There were a few covers – Nobody Does It Better, You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Lennon’s, Real Love – each of which was delivered with a heartening amount of professional sincerity. Much of the set came from 2001 album Love is Here, like Alcoholic, Poor Misguided Fool, Lost Souls and Lullaby. But Walsh played some solo stuff as well, like Life, off his new EP. Of course, Four To The Floor, Starsailor’s international single, wasn’t missed.

Walsh’s performance to a small crowd was as enthusiastic as you would expect if he were playing Glastonbury. McLeod came back at the end for a duet of AC/DC’s (chosen for having British and Australian members), You Shook Me All Night Long. It really was a community effort, with Australians and the few Brits in the crowd chiming in.

No doubt, most felt a sense of honour for having experienced such a hidden prize of a gig.

BY SASHA PETROVA

LOVED: Reliving decade-old Starsailor favourites.

HATED: Adolescent style jokes.

DRANK: Overpriced vodkas.